Musselburgh Amateurs kept their Scottish Cup dream alive after a hard-fought 1-1 draw against Ayrshire side Stewarton United.
The East Lothian team remain one step away from the quarter-final stage of the Scottish (Saturday) Amateur Cup after David McLeod’s first-half equaliser but will have home advantage as they bid for a second time to overcome Stewarton, with the replay scheduled for this weekend at Pinkie.
Not only will they enjoy the familiar surroundings of their own ground, Musselburgh will also look forward to the prospect of walking out onto a crisper playing field after trudging through a muddy, lopsided pitch to grind out a draw in Ayrshire.
“We did have our chances, and with a couple towards the end we could have won the game,” said Cris Kay, the Musselburgh manager. “Overall, it was a hard-fought draw on a sloping pitch.
“The game opened up in the last five minutes as the heavy pitch took its toll on some players’ fitness. Stewarton are a strong physical side, a battling side more than a football side.
“The match was played in a good spirit, but it was hard to tell how good they were because the pitch was really that bad. I didn’t really learn anything about them ahead of the replay.
“Hopefully, we will be playing on the 3G pitch at Pinkie, which should be good for us. But, we can’t take anything for granted.”
The return tie is due to be played at 3pm on Saturday, either on grass or on the newly-opened artificial surface that was officially unveiled during the weekend past. Stewarton may also thrive on being able to contest the replay on a surface more suited to football.
The west of Scotland side went ahead after a quarter of an hour in the original tie, but were pegged back when the Honest Toun side equalised through McLeod’s volley after 30 minutes. Visiting captain Jamie Kay, the brother of manager Cris, pulled the strings in the Musselburgh midfield and inspired the Lothian and Edinburgh Amateur FA underdogs to an impressive draw that extended an unlikely cup run.
“Before the tie against Greenock HSFP, it was a case of ‘we’ve got this far now’ and there wasn’t any pressure on the guys,” said boss Kay of a previous scalp taken by his team. “If you look at the other teams, we’re like the underestimated underdogs. We’ve said to the guys to try and enjoy it as much as they can.
“We didn’t want anyone coming off thinking they could have done more, and they fought to the death.”
That type of approach to their Scottish Cup games has reaped rewards for Kay’s men, who this time next week may be contemplating a tie against one of amateur football’s big guns in the last eight of the competition.
“Anybody from the Caledonian League, we’d want to avoid,” said Kay. “To win it, you have to beat the best. A home tie would be good – especially on the 3G pitch, as we seem to play better on that. On our day, though, we can give anyone a run for their money.
“To win it would be absolutely huge, phenomenal. As long as we can keep going in the Scottish, that can benefit us and help us attract even better players.”
Should their run in the national tourney come to an end, Musselburgh and Kay still have plenty to play for in LEAFA Premier Division 1 campaign, where they are mid-table in an extremely tight top tier.
“We take every game as seriously as we can,” said Kay. “We have a lot of games left in the league, but just making sure we don’t get relegated is our priority.”